Melbourne (AFP), By Robert Smith
Novak Djokovic attempts Sunday to keep his formidable record intact in the Australian Open final, while Andy Murray is bidding to end a tormenting run of three losses in the Melbourne decider.
The Serb top seed is four-from-four in Australian finals and into his fifth at Melbourne Park in eight years.
He has beaten Murray in two of the Scot’s three Australian losses in 2011 and 2013, although the sixth seed mastered the Serb in his two major triumphs at the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon.
Djokovic will remain the world number one on the next ATP rankings when they are released on Monday regardless of what happens, but Murray can climb to three from his current sixth if he wins.
The Serb has won six out of his last seven encounters against Murray — including four in a row last year — with the Scot bidding to defeat him for the first time since the 2013 Wimbledon final.
History beckons for Murray if does win, becoming the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1934 to lift the Australian trophy.
Djokovic said his recent record against the Briton was a big confidence booster going into the match, but he remains wary.
“There’s no clear favourite. I think the way he’s been playing, he already knows what it takes to win a Grand Slam title,” he said.
“On the other hand, I’m going to try to use also my own experience and of course motivation to eventually get my hands on the title as well.”
– Extremely difficult to win –
Murray, under the coaching of two-time French major champion Amelie Mauresmo, looked impressive in turning over Tomas Berdych in Thursday’s semi-final, while Djokovic laboured over five sets to put away defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
“I know it’s going to be extremely difficult to win the match. I know if I want to win, it will probably be very tough and challenging physically,” Murray said.
“So I need to prepare myself mentally for that. But he has a fantastic record here. He obviously loves the court and the conditions. It would be a big upset if I manage to win tomorrow.”
While delighted to have again reached Sunday’s final, Djokovic admitted his “level of performance was not where I wanted it to be” against Wawrinka.
For his part, Murray was pleased with the state of his game and proud to be in a fourth Melbourne final in an era dominated by Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Wawrinka had the weapons to leave Djokovic gasping at times running around the court during their semi, which must have encouraged Murray, who while regarded as a great defensive player, is looking to add more variety to his game.
Up until Friday’s semi-final, Djokovic had lost just one of his 74 service games in the tournament. Against Wawrinka his serve was broken five times and that will give Murray confidence.
Murray showed he is capable of making tactical tweaks during his matches to counter his opponents and is expecting he may have to do the same against Djokovic.
“I made some big adjustments in the Berdych match from how things were going at the start,” he said.
“I’ll need to do the same thing again on the Sunday against Novak because things that you think will work don’t always work out that way.”